The Man in the Ridiculous Cowboy Hat
by Jean Granger

I imagine it will be the same as the last time. The Man in the Ridiculous Cowboy Hat will come, unannounced, and he will take something. Nothing of consequence: my reading glasses, a plastic pitcher, a rug. But over time, it's starting to add up. The house is beginning to feel . . I don't know, maybe . . . sparse?

No, if I'm going to be honest with myself, I should admit this sad little one-room house was already sparse. But each thing he took left a sort of hole. In my reality, I mean.

Like the reading glasses. I kept them on my one little table next to my one wooden chair. Now, when I need to read the fine print on this week's government contract, I automatically reach for them. No glasses. I have to sign the contract without even knowing what it says. Oh well, it's not like I had any choice anyhow. Everybody has to sign.

But things like that missing plastic pitcher leave a hole. Yes, I know I hadn't used that pitcher in years, but every time I open the cabinet door, I notice its absence. A hole, in what used to be real.

And the rug. The rug was where the dog slept (back when dogs were allowed). Duke. That was his name. The child thought Duke was a good name for a dog, and I didn't mind. Duke's hair was still all over that rug when The Man in the Ridiculous Cowboy Hat came to take it.

But I guess it doesn't matter that The Man in the Ridiculous Cowboy Hat took it. I don't even know why I kept it around. But now, I do miss it. Another hole.

Sometimes, at night when the war sounds are farther away, I wonder who The Man in the Ridiculous Cowboy Hat is. He doesn't wear a uniform. But he acts official. For some reason, he thinks he can walk in unannounced and take whatever he wants. Sometimes at night, lying awake listening to the war sounds, I worry that he will take something I actually need. Like . . . maybe . . . my chair.

Or like my flashlight. What if every time the lights go out (which is almost every night now), there would be no flashlight? I'd just have to sit here in the darkness, waiting for him.

I decide I'd better act before it's too late. This time, when The Man in the Ridiculous Cowboy Hat comes, it will be different. Although it's against the law to lock doors, maybe I will lock my door. He won't be able to get in. What could he do about it?

Maybe that's not such a good idea. What if he calls the Thought police? What if he is the Thought police?

No, I need a better plan.

What if, right after he walks in, I ask him what he wants? I mean, I could come right out and say, "Why are you here? What do you want?"

No, that won't work. He'll just say, "None of your business. Out of my way."

But then, I could say, "Well, I have a right to ask. After all, it is my house."

What could he say to that?

The problem is, he'll probably just say, "It's not your house. This house belongs to the state. All property belongs to the state."

If he hasn't killed me by then, I could still stand my ground. I'll say, 'Well, it used to be my house."

He'll just laugh at me. Try to brush me aside.

But I won't back down. "I'll say, "Well, they still let me live in it. That must mean something."

He'll say, "That doesn't mean shit. They can take it away from you any time they want to. In fact, I could take it away from you right now if I wanted to."

I'll pretend to be outraged. I'll say, "What gives you the right?"

He'll say, "The law. That law states quite clearly that now everything belongs to everybody."

I'll say, "Well, then, I'll come and take your stuff. In fact, I want my reading glasses back. I'll come to your house and take them."

No, I might as well face it. None of that will happen. As usual, The Man in the Ridiculous Cowboy Hat will just walk in and take whatever he wants. He won't say a word, and I won't speak either. After all, so far he hasn't taken anything of consequence. I should be grateful for that.

I go to sit in the chair to wait for him.

Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

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